Most moths fly during the summer but there are some on the wing at every time of year. The angle shades moth (Phlogophora meticulosa) is a particularly beautiful species which can be seen in every month of the year with peaks in spring and autumn.
As well as breeding in this country it is also a migrant species which flies over from the continent in periods of settled weather. It can sometimes be found during the day resting on vegetation and is a common visitor to gardens.
The angle shades moth is a medium-sized moth with a wing span of about 50mm. Its name reflects the angled, dark patterning on its forewings.
The most striking feature of the angle shades is its camouflage. Not only is it coloured in a way which helps it to remain concealed amongst autumnal foliage, where it often rests, but its wings are also slightly creased and ornately-edged to mimic the texture of a leaf.
The caterpillars of the angle shades moth are polyphagous so they will eat the leaves of a wide range of different plants including nettles, red valerian, dock, bramble, hazel and oak.
In Britain we have an amazing number of moths, many of which are colourful and wonderfully ornate. The fact that they fly at night means that we don't see them very often but if you leave an outside light on for a few hours at dusk it is surprising what you might find, even as late in the year as November.
Moths are initially split into two types: Micro (small moths) and Macro (large moths). In Britain there are over 1600 species of micro moths and about 900 species of macro moths. The biggest of them all is the privet hawkmoth with a wing span of up to 12 centimetres (nearly five inches).
Moths are very closely related to butterflies. They are both found in the same Order which is known as ‘Lepidoptera’. There is no scientific distinction between moths and butterflies but a few general rules apply in most cases. Butterflies always fly by day; they are usually brightly coloured; all British butterflies have club shaped antennae (though these are not always easy to see) and most hold their wings vertically behind their backs when at rest (but not when basking).
Moths usually fly by night (though some types such as burnet, tiger and the cinnabar moths fly by day); many are deemed to be less colourful (but there are a huge number of exceptions to this rule); their antennae are rarely clubbed (but do come in a wonderful range of shapes and sizes) and they tend to hold their wings either flat or in a roof shape over their bodies.
If you wish to encourage moths in your garden then there are some useful strategies to help them. Firstly grow some nectar plants which release scent at night, species such as night-scented stock, marjoram and jasmine are good examples. Secondly create piles of leaf litter, twigs and branches in sheltered parts of the garden where caterpillars can pupate. Finally provide as great a diversity of plants and shrubs as possible to provide leaves for larvae to feed on, native species are best.